Systems Thinking, Critical Realism and Philosophy
A Confluence of Ideas
In the fields of systems and cybernetics, such movements as Soft Systems Methodology and Second-Order Cybernetics have undermined the objective realist view from nowhere at the core of scientific practice. Instead, they foreground a constructivist view of knowledge insisting that human consciousness has no direct access to any possible external reality and, thus, when considering social systems, ontological questions need to be put aside in favor of strictly epistemological ones. In the view of John Mingers, this epistemological turn has done much good through its pluralistic approach to truth claims but has, to some degree, overcorrected in its rejection of naive realism and left the rationalization of particular interventions into social systems in a state of unproductive paralysis. In his book, Systems Thinking, Critical Realism and Philosophy: A Confluence of Ideas (Routledge, 2014), Mingers offers an integration of the work of critical realist philosopher Roy Bhaskar as a corrective to this state of affairs. Mingers thoroughly detailed and rigorously argued book offers systems thinkers and cyberneticians a potential way out of an epistemological cul de sac which is surprisingly compatible with such canonical thinkers in the field as Peter Checkland and Humberto Maturana and opens the door to new kinds of differential ontology and methodological pluralism that could help move this fields forward in significantly productive ways.